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September 2, 2015

Still drinking soda?

12:07 pm - Posted by Gregg

Fun fact: When I weighed over 450 pounds, I was drinking 6-12 cans of diet soda a day. Today, I weigh around 175 pounds (and have for well over a decade) and I don’t drink any soda — ever. Still think soda can’t harm you? Check out these statistics on soft drinks and disease from the Harvard School of Public Health (click here), which includes findings such as “People who consume sugary drinks regularly—1 to 2 cans a day or more—have a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who rarely have such drinks.” Giving up soda and replacing it with water is one simple thing you can do to have a lasting effect on your physical (and even mental) wellness — even without drastically changing your eating or exercise habits. What are you waiting for?

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August 31, 2015

Watermelon 101

12:58 pm - Posted by Gregg

When it comes to eating “cleaner” and “fresher” foods, it’s no secret — doing so usually means re-training your taste buds. There are so many additives, food substitutes and chemicals in over-processed junk food that often when we start a healthier eating regime, so-called ‘healthy’ foods taste like cardboard.

In my first book, I write about giving taste buds a couple days (or more) to adjust to the new way of eating – while assuring readers that eventually the healthier food will taste better. And yes, this means the unhealthier foods will begin to taste worse. In fact, I can tell when food is overly processed with too many additives, too much salt or (heaven forbid) has trans fats as an ingredient. It’s not a matter of not eating this junk to avoid going back to weighing over 450 pounds – I simply hate the way these foods taste and hate how I would feel (lethargic, nauseas, physically ill) if I still consumed them.

Thankfully, nature has some goodies of its own that can rival even the sweetest cakes or frozen treats. And one of these bounties is good ol’ watermelon. When fresh, crisp and sweet, I find it as enjoyable as a bowl of ice cream. And yes, I still enjoy naturally made ice cream or frozen yogurt from time to time. But I balance those treats out with fresh fruit. And during this time of year (just before the winter months hit), I do my best to enjoy watermelon for all it’s worth.

Studies have revealed that besides being delicious, watermelon delivers several health benefits, including being an excellent source of Vitamin C as well as a good source of Vitamins A and B6. It also contains the carotenoid antioxidant lycopene, which can help neutralize free radicals and help prevent prostate cancer. Watermelon has been shown to reduce the risk of other types of cancers as well. Plus, its high water content makes it great for hydration. What’s more, it’s a terrific dessert or snack for kids and can help them understand that not every ‘treat’ has to come covered in fudge.

When selecting watermelon, I always go for seedless. I’m not a happy camper if I must interrupt my chewing with spitting seeds into a nearby napkin (even though I suppose it burns a few more calories).

According to produce specialists, Mid-June through mid-August is when watermelon is at its ripest (with July being the most prized month of all). Good watermelon can still be found even now. But its time is growing nigh. Even if imported from warmer climates during the winter, it’s likely not as delicious as the fruit the summertime month’s offer. So let’s go watermelon shopping, shall we?

When picking a whole watermelon, size matters since 80% of a watermelon is water. Pick one of the largest you can find, while making sure the exterior doesn’t have any visible cuts, bruising, dents or soft spots. Experts also suggest looking for a yellowish area on the melon’s exterior, which indicates its ripeness after sitting in the sun.

Next, do what you’ve likely seen other shoppers do – knock-knock on the exterior with your knuckle. You’re listening for a slight echo to your knock, which indicates that the fruit is ripe. A dull thud could indicate otherwise.

When preparing watermelon for guests, or myself, I make sure to make the eating experience as relaxed and “special” as possible – therefore I don’t usually serve it in wedges. Giving food a more delectable presentation is something I strive for almost every time I eat. This helps my brain, eyes and other senses know that I’m eating, which helps ‘up’ the enjoyment factor – and, therefore, the satisfaction and fullness factors.

I suggest slicing watermelon into quarters, length wise, then taking a quarter and carefully running a knife along the red center’s outer edge and the whiteness of the rind. Cut all the way around on both sides, so that the whole quarter of the red stuff could slip out. But don’t slip it out just yet. Next, cut the fruit from side to side, on both exposed sides of the quarter. Finally, cut across your long slices, from left to right, leaving about 1/2 to 2/3 of an inch between each slice.

Next, slide your perfectly prepared chunks into serving bowls. But before you serve the fruit, put the bowls into the freezer for 5-10 minutes to give the fruit an extra kick of crispiness.

When time to serve, pull the bowls from the freezer and serve with a napkin underneath (to keep the bowl from being too chilly to the touch). The watermelon chunks should have a minimal layer of frost that kicks up the flavor and the crunchy quotient, making for a texture-y, sweet and delicious eating experience. (Careful not to keep the chunks in the freezer too long or the pieces will freeze and require a little defrosting before being comfortably edible).

Saving the uneaten portion of the watermelon can be handled two ways – either by “chunking up” the remaining portion and putting it into airtight containers and storing in the fridge; or wrapping up the other half or quarters (rind and all) in cellophane wrap and then wrapping them in an additional plastic bag before putting into the fridge (to avoid having to clean up leaked watermelon juice at a later time). Plan on consuming the leftover fruit sooner rather than later to enjoy it at its freshest.

Watermelon. It’s not just for summer picnics anymore.

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August 24, 2015

Spare change?

12:58 pm - Posted by Gregg

Jordan Ring recently alerted me to his article “25 Small Changes You Can Make to Lose Weight, Feel Better and Live Longer,” which (as promised) is chock full of easy and helpful ideas for anyone looking to take their health to the next level. Jordan divides up these health-minded tips between dietary, lifestyle and attitude changes – making it easy for the reader to pick and choose which tips he or she might want to put into practice.

I’ve always loved this approach to feeling and looking better. Too often, when wanting to initiate important change in our lives, we take on an “All or nothing” approach, which can lead to instant failure the first time we fall off the wagon (however one defines his or her own wagon).

You can check out Jordan’s full article and all 25 of his helpful tips by clicking here. And feel free to add your own tips to the conversation by commenting below. (Thanks!)

Photo Source: aktuality,sk

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August 10, 2015

On and off the couch

12:50 pm - Posted by Gregg

As someone who’s often on the run (well, on the power walk), I often “read” books by listening to them via audio book. So it’s always a treat to find time to sit down and read a “real” book (even if I’m not actually turning pages since they’re usually on an e-reader… Ah, technology). Recently, I went “old school” and read a book that required me to actually turn the pages (how many calories did I burn per page, I wonder…). Lucky for me, this tome was a real page turner and, in fact, had all the qualities of an actual audio book since even though reading, I felt like the author was speaking directly to me.

Wisdom From The Couch (2014, Central Recovery Press) was written by clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst Jennifer Kunst, who also writes an online column for Psychology Today. Her approach to the often tricky subject of finding inner peace is tackling it from the inside-out. In other words, she examines why we’re constantly plagued by various mental maladies and does so with entertaining examples that include references to pop culture and even children’s stories.

Only an author with Ms. Kunst’s talents could write about these subjects with a refreshing “Tell it like it is” take — without ever being too in your face or too morose. She fully acknowledges that life is full of challenges (and that it always will be). But her terrific approach offers humor, solace and (ultimately) a quiet understanding that let’s us know it’s okay to not be okay. Or, more accurately, to not be our perceived definition of “okay.” As I read the various chapters, which cover everything from thinking we should be living an entitled life to the old adage that slow and steady wins the race, I found myself nodding, laughing and being overcome by a tranquil state.

Suddenly, while reading, I felt less like a patient on this doctor’s couch and more like I was dishing with a friend about the human psyche (my own human psyche as it were). Could it be I’d found a salve for my worrisome thoughts that didn’t come in the form of some high calorie treat? (Heck yeah, I did — which begs for a heartfelt thanks to Ms. Kunst.)

This is the fun, whimsy and major innovation offered in Wisdom From The Couch – Ms. Kunst entertains with her expert take on the human mind, which in turn helps one to gain a greater understanding of their own thought patterns and why we sometimes become our own worst enemy (whether when trying to lose weight, achieve career success, find love, strengthen relationships or whatever we might be facing). Ms. Kunst’s overall message is that we’re okay even with our so-called foibles. In other words, we are made up of all of these challenges and can actually turn the table and view them as gifts that have come to us as a result of experiencing life at many different levels.

The message might sounds simplistic, but that’s only because Ms. Kunst delivers her prose in a way that soothes and nurtures. We’re not only left knowing ourselves (and even others) better, but also loving ourselves in this moment for being the human creatures that we are. With this renewed insight to the human condition, we can face everything (even life’s next round of challenges) with gratitude. And this is true wisdom that one can carry into every situation life has to offer (whether on or off the couch).

As someone who is often wanting to be reminded that “everything’s okay,” I found a real sense of peace and solace in this book’s pages. Thus, I wanted to share my find with other Just Stoppers. After all, if I’m okay, you’re okay… And with this book, Ms. Kunst offers us a sure footed path to not only know that, but to embrace it.

Have you read this book? What’s your take? Or do you have another recent book that you’ve read that you want to comment about? If so, all comments are welcome, below. (Thank you!)

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12:20 pm - Posted by Gregg

My beautiful friend Karen recently had the rug pulled out from under her, health-wise. And yet she rose to the occasion and has become am amazing inspiration for so many people — including myself. I am so moved by Karen’s journey (not to mention her courage), that I asked her to write a little about what she’s gone through, in hopes it might move and inspire some of you. I know Karen inspires me daily. No matter what we might be facing, there is hope. In fact, like Karen, we can become the hope. It’s all about taking the next step (no matter how small of a step it might seem to be).

And for those of us (including myself) who sometimes complain that we don’t feel like exercising, Karen’s commitment to fitness and to being her best self is incredibly motivating. Don’t believe me? Keep reading…

My Friend Karen’s Story in Her Own Words:

I am a runner, love to cycle on the road or better yet on the trails. I play tennis two to three times a week. I am an athlete and cant ‘t seem to get enough of the great outdoors. The running, biking and tennis came to a screeching halt December 24, 2014 (yes — Christmas Eve) when I was diagnosed with not one but two cancers — ovarian and uterine.

I had surgery that morning and stayed in the hospital for a few days until I went home to start my recovery. I began my journey by walking around the island in my kitchen, I could complete four laps before having to take a break. After a week of this I was ready to get outside, however living in Michigan in January can be cold – really cold.

We had record low temperatures this past winter but it wasn’t going to stop me, I layered up and was out the door going for my walk. I started by walking around the block and then around the block twice — three times. It was then I started putting the miles on and found myself walking for over an hour at a time in the bitter cold and snow. I then began my 18 week chemotherapy program the end of January. I also went out for my first run (okay — slow jog) since my surgery ten days after my first chemo and I was never so happy.

“I am a runner and I am running,” I would tell myself — “Chemo or not!”

Backing off from tennis for two months while my 12″ incision started its healing process, I decided to pick up come spinning classes at my club. These activities continued through my treatment, not every day, slower on some days than others, but on my good days I was out there doing something and having fun doing it. When I rang “The Bell” (see picture of this event) on May 28th in celebration of my last chemo treatment I felt like I was on the podium after a big race and I had just won 1st place.

I am the winner and I have won BIG! I am a SURVIVOR and ever so blessed to have the medical care, my husband, friends and family along with the mental and physical strength and drive to be where I am today. Today I celebrate and am so grateful to be cancer free for 7 months.

I have just returned from a three week trip to Moab, Utah, Fruita, Colorado, and Prescott, Arizona — where I was mountain biking on some of the best trails, running and getting back to the mountains and the great outdoors. Happy trails and may they always lead you on a wonderful journey.

Photos Source: Karen B. (Used with permission.)

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